Shailender Bhatia, MD

Director, Melanoma and Renal Cancer Team
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
Professor, Division of Medical Oncology
University of Washington School of Medicine
Physician
UW Medicine
Professor, Clinical Research Division
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Specialty:
Medical Oncology
“I believe that it truly takes a village to deliver optimal care to our patients, and at SCCA, patients have that village — compassionate professionals at all levels, who have committed themselves to easing the burden of cancer on the lives of our patients and their caregivers as much as possible.”
— Dr. Bhatia
Why did you become a medical oncologist?

I first became interested in hematology-oncology during my internal medicine residency, when I met a cancer patient with compromised immune system whose immune cells were eating up (phagocytosis) their own blood cells. The microscopic images of blood cells being swallowed by immune cells got me thinking about the marvels of our immune system, and have shaped my career path. I immediately became interested in harnessing the power of our immune system towards eliminating cancer and hence, sought a fellowship at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center/University of Washington School of Medicine, the epicenter of immunotherapy. I subsequently chose to pursue this interest in skin cancers that were considered exceedingly challenging to treat at that point, but are now at the forefront of the cancer immunotherapy revolution. One of the aspects of my practice that I enjoy the most is bringing leading-edge clinical trials to our patients, which can offer hope when standard therapies aren’t effective enough.

Immunotherapy A type of therapy that uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection and other diseases. A therapy that uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection and other diseases. Some immunotherapies only target certain cells of the immune system. Others affect the immune system in a general way. Types of immunotherapy include cytokines, vaccines, bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) and some monoclonal antibodies. Medical oncologist A physician who has special training in diagnosing and treating cancer in adults using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapy and targeted therapy. A physician who has special training in diagnosing and treating cancer in adults using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapy and targeted therapy. A medical oncologist is often the main health care provider for someone who has cancer. A medical oncologist also gives supportive care and may coordinate treatment given by other specialists. Standard care A treatment or other intervention currently being used and considered to be of proven effectiveness based on past studies.
What would you like patients to know about your approach to care?

Dealing with a cancer diagnosis is challenging at so many levels. Our team strives hard through thoughtful, strategic treatment planning and shared decision-making to ensure that our patients feel confident in their recommended treatment path. We discuss the specific and realistic goals for each patient’s unique situation, ranging from cure to prolongation of life, while improving/preserving their quality-of-life as much as possible. We use all the tools at our disposal, including standard therapies and clinical trials, to give our patients the best chance at long-term success. I believe that it truly takes a village to deliver optimal care to our patients, and at SCCA, patients have that village — compassionate professionals at all levels, who have committed themselves to easing the burden of cancer on the lives of our patients and their caregivers as much as possible.

Standard care A treatment or other intervention currently being used and considered to be of proven effectiveness based on past studies.

Provider background

Specialty: Medical Oncology

Area of clinical practice

Kidney cancer, skin cancers

Melanoma, Merkel cell carcinoma, other non-melanoma skin cancers

I am a medical oncologist who specializes in the care of patients with advanced skin cancers that generally require systemic surveillance and therapy. I am committed to developing clinical trials that focus on improving outcomes for patients with skin cancers, especially melanoma (including ocular melanoma, a rare form of cancer that affects pigment cells in the eye), Merkel cell carcinoma and other non-melanoma skin cancers. I am interested in novel therapies that stimulate the immune system to fight cancer and in targeted therapies that spare patients unnecessary side effects.

My research interests also include intra-tumoral immunotherapy, a form of treatment where cancer medications are injected directly into a tumor to improve treatment responses while reducing systemic toxicity. With the continual improvement in our patients survival, I am also committed to reducing the financial and logistical impacts of cancer treatment by optimizing the dose and frequency of immunotherapy drugs and reducing wasteful healthcare expenses.

Immunotherapy A type of therapy that uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection and other diseases. A therapy that uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection and other diseases. Some immunotherapies only target certain cells of the immune system. Others affect the immune system in a general way. Types of immunotherapy include cytokines, vaccines, bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) and some monoclonal antibodies. Medical oncologist A physician who has special training in diagnosing and treating cancer in adults using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapy and targeted therapy. A physician who has special training in diagnosing and treating cancer in adults using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapy and targeted therapy. A medical oncologist is often the main health care provider for someone who has cancer. A medical oncologist also gives supportive care and may coordinate treatment given by other specialists. Melanoma Cancer that begins in the melanocytes (cells that make the pigment melanin). It may begin in a mole (skin melanoma), but it can also begin in other pigmented tissues, such as the eye or the intestines. Side effects A problem that occurs when treatment affects healthy tissues or organs. Some side effects of cancer treatment are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, pain, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss and mouth sores. Surveillance Closely watching a patient’s condition but not treating it unless there are changes in test results. Surveillance is also used to find early signs that a disease has come back. In medicine, surveillance means closely watching a patient’s condition but not treating it unless there are changes in test results. Surveillance is also used to find early signs that a disease has come back. It may also be used for a person who has an increased risk of a disease, such as cancer. During surveillance, certain exams and tests are done on a regular schedule. In public health, surveillance may also refer to the ongoing collection of information about a disease, such as cancer, in a certain group of people. The information collected may include where the disease occurs in a population and whether it affects people of a certain gender, age or ethnic group. Targeted therapy A type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific types of cancer cells while causing less harm to normal cells. A type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific types of cancer cells while causing less harm to normal cells. Some targeted therapies block the action of certain enzymes, proteins or other molecules involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. Other types of targeted therapies help the immune system kill cancer cells, or they deliver toxic substances directly to cancer cells and kill them. Targeted therapy may have fewer side effects than other types of cancer treatment. Most targeted therapies are either small molecule drugs or monoclonal antibodies.

Diseases treated

Education, experience and certifications
Medical Degree
All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India
Residency
University of Connecticut Health Center, Internal Medicine
Fellowship
University of Washington, Hematology & Oncology
Board Certification
Medical Oncology, 2008; Hematology, 2008, Internal Medicine, 2004, American Board of Internal Medicine
Other
Internship, University of Connecticut Health Center
Languages
English
Hindi
Punjabi

Stories

Research

Clinical trials

We make promising new treatments available to you through studies called clinical trials led by SCCA doctors. Many of these trials at SCCA have led to FDA-approved treatments and have improved standards of care globally. Together, you and your doctor can decide if a study is right for you.

Study ID:
NCT04393753
Domatinostat in Combination With Avelumab in Patients With Advanced Merkel Cell Carcinoma Progressing on Anti-PD-(L)1 (MERKLIN2)
Complete title
A phase II, open label study to investigate the efficacy and safety of domatinostat in combination with avelumab in patients with advanced unresectable/metastatic Merkel Cell Carcinoma progressing on anti-PD-(L)1 antibody therapy - the MERKLIN 2 study
Study ID:
NCT03271372
Adjuvant Avelumab in Merkel Cell Cancer (ADAM)
Complete title
A Multicenter, Randomized, Double-Blinded, Placebo-Controlled, Phase 3 Trial of Adjuvant Avelumab (anti-PDL-1 antibody) in Merkel Cell Carcinoma Patients with Lymph Node Metastases
Study ID:
NCT03712605
Pembrolizumab Compared to Standard of Care Observation in Treating Patients With Completely Resected Stage I-III Merkel Cell Cancer, STAMP Study
Complete title
A Phase III Randomized Trial Comparing Adjuvant MK-3475 (Pembrolizumab) to Standard of Care Observation in Completely Resected Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Publications

Many of our SCCA physicians conduct ongoing research to improve standards of patient care. Their work is evaluated by other physicians and selected for publication to the United States National Library of Medicine, the largest medical library in the world. See scientific papers this SCCA provider has written.

Press

SCCA providers are often asked to give their medical expertise for press and news publications. Read articles by or about this SCCA provider.

Your care team

At SCCA, you receive care from a team of providers with extensive experience in your disease. Your team includes doctors, a team coordinator, a registered nurse, an advanced practice provider and others, based on your needs. You also have access to experts like nutritionists, social workers, acupuncturists, psychiatrists and more who specialize in supporting people with cancer or blood disorders.
Registered nurse (RN)
Registered nurse (RN)
Your nurse manages your care alongside your physician and assists with care procedures and treatments.
Patient care coordinator
Patient care coordinator
Your patient care coordinator works closely with you and your physician and serves as your scheduler.

Insurance

SCCA accepts most national private health insurance plans as well as Medicare. We also accept Medicaid for people from Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. We are working to ensure that everyone, no matter what their financial situation, has access to the care they need.

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